It’d been a good long time since I made it home to Los Angeles for Christmas. Most of the extended Gomez family lives in the area, including my sister, aunts, uncles, cousins, and those removed by a degree or two or five whom I’ll just refer to as whatever relation suits me. I’d heard good things about the annual Gomez family Christmas Eve dinner last year, which I hadn’t made it to since I was around 12 or so, and decided this was the time to swing it.
Swinging it involved getting cheap tickets that made us fly from Durham to O’Hare to Seattle to LA, making a normally 7-8 hour trip take 12 instead. Also, O’Hare is a pain to fly through as all our flights to or from it were delayed or canceled. So we actually had to fly into Orange County instead when we missed our Seattle to LA flight and my sister was nice enough to drive the extra distance to get us.
We slept at Christa’s house in Culver City that night and the next. Christa took on tour guide duties, something we both do well, and took us to Olvera Street in downtown LA on my request. Olvera Street, also known as El Pueblo Monument, is the oldest part of Los Angeles and a nicely remodeled Mexican marketplace with small taquerias and stands.
We ate at Cielito Lindo, a spot that specializes in taquitos covered in a thin avocado sauce. They were okay. I liked the sopa and taco we stopped for later a bit better but I still haven’t found anywhere as good as Taqueria Vallarta in Santa Cruz. La Vaquita in Durham is a close second, though I’ve only been twice.
We explored the Avila Adobe next, the oldest house in LA, which is decorated to resemble mid-19th century life.
It was worth taking the few minutes to explore it if only to say I’ve been there. Further down the marketplace, we saw wrestling masks for sale.
We didn’t buy one but I kind of think we should have. I did get two pretty bracelets and Ben bought a shirt that proclaims “El Cucuy [Spanish for a bogeyman-type monster] doesn’t scare me.” I also tried some pumpkin candy that was basically a conversion of pumpkin mush to sugar crystals. Yum.
Ben took our picture in front of a large nativity scene at the Olvera Street plaza.
We said goodbye to Daniel for now and Christa drove us around downtown LA, with me snapping pictures galore. I must say, downtown LA is looking good, especially the performing arts area, where my cousin Mike works. Walt Disney Hall is gorgeous, as are many other spots in this area.
That night, we went to C & O Cucina in Marina del Rey, where I met up with some of my fave college friends, Donna and Angela, and their boyfriends, in addition to my sister’s boyfriend, Joe, and my cousin, Kelly. Thus began the overeating!
We finished off the evening in Santa Monica, strolling along the deserted boardwalk and promenade.
We had frozen yogurt at Pinkberry’s, which my sister informed me used to be the happening place to get yogurt since Paris Hilton was a customer there before she opted for some new chain. Yay, we ate formerly trendy desserts!
The next day, we migrated over to Joe’s house since he lives near the house that hosts the Christmas Eve party and Christa and I spent the day making desserts and side dishes for Christmas Eve dinner and Christmas Day. Ben spent the day rocking out to Rock Band, because he’s a rock star. Cooking went well, except for the unfortunate sloshing of grease onto my skirt and the floor when Christa went to the pull the container out to drain some pans from enchilada making. It’s okay, Sister, the stains came out! We then headed over to Aunt Toni’s house in Burbank. She and her husband have remodeled the place since she inherited it when our Aunt Faye and Uncle Manuel passed away. It still looked familiar despite the changes! There’s a great new bar addition and the two front rooms run seamlessly together. I re-met a bunch of family, including Tony, Denille, Robert, Faith, Hannah, Josh, Rachel, Mimi, Rich, and Leslie and a bunch of people I know I am missing. It was great to see you all! I definitely enjoyed doing the extended family thing for the evening.
We went over to Rich and Leslie’s with cousins Kelly and Adam, and Christa and Joe after to hang out a bit longer as the Christmas Eve party closes shop early. We then spent the night at Joe’s house so we could roll out of bed early in the morning for breakfast at Gary and Angie’s, with my cousin Breanna in charge of the meal.
Roll out of bed we did, but the moment I smelled bacon at their door, I knew Aunt Angie had to have taken over. We feasted on day-old Starbuck’s pastries from Daniel’s job, Breanna’s baked cinnamon rolls, bacon, and fruit once Aunt Madeleine and Uncle Fermin arrived. By this point, Christmas dinner was only a few hours away, but we didn’t let that impede our gluttony.
Presents were opened after and Ben and I received a hot chocolate frother from Daniel, a snowman candle holder from Angie, and a helicopter from Santa. Dinner was next with ham, a bitter green salad and creamed corn. The Lopezes came in a few minutes after we’d started, bearing broccoli casserole, executive potatoes, and sweet potato casserole. Oh, the calories! Oh, the joy of cheesy, sour cream-, and mayonnaise-based dishes! I was happy. Penny even added an extra cup of cheddar to the potatoes “by accident.”
After dinner, we transitioned to the Secret Santa/Blessing Tree portion of the day, which my family started doing a few years ago and Gary insists should only be every other year because he wants to buy presents for everyone. I think it’s a neat little tradition. At Thanksgiving, everyone wrote what they were grateful for from the past year and hung the blessings on the tree. Ben and I added ours right beforehand instead. Then we took turns picking a card from the tree and reading it aloud, then had the person whose card it was give their Secret Santa gift to the person they had picked at Thanksgiving. Present would be opened, then that person would pick a new tag to read. Sounds like a convoluted procedure because it was! We forgot what method we were using many times but everyone did get their presents eventually. I received a few books from Mikey that I’d been looking forward to reading and Ben got the new Super Mario Brothers game from Uncle Fermin.
We then decided to try for a cousins’ picture and managed to succeed getting a few good shots!
We headed back home the next morning but didn’t make it until Sunday, due to O’Hare flight problems once again. No matter, it was a great Christmas and I was happy to see the family again! Thanks for having us, Gomezes!
There’s plenty more pictures to view at our photo website.